Saturday 11 May 2013


Mammy Blue
Oh mammy,
Oh mammy, mammy blue...
Mammy blue.
Oh mammy,

Oh mammy, mammy blue...
My mammy blue.
Now maybe our forgotten son,
Who wandered off at twenty one.
It's sad to find myself at home,
Why don't you come on around, now?
If I could only hold your hand,
And say I'm sorry, Yes I am.
I'm sure you'd really understand,
Oh! Where are you now?
The house we set up on the hill,
Its life is standing still.
And memories of my childhood,
Left in my mind.
I've been through all walks of life,

I've seen tired, deserted, lonely nights.

And now without you by my side,

How will I survive?

Friday 10 May 2013


“A healthy outside starts from the inside.” – Robert Urich

For Food Friday, a classic vegetarian treat that packs quite a bit of taste, but also wholesome goodness!

Lentil Burgers

2 cups dried lentils (cleaned, rinsed and drained)
4 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
2 tender stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp ground flax seed
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp chickpea flour
2 tbs water
Olive oil for frying

Bring 4 cups of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the olive oil, lentils and a pinch of salt and return to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until the water is absorbed, stirring now and then. Let cool and move the lentils to a large mixing bowl. Mash the lentils with a potato masher until they are completely mashed.

Heat a large skillet and add some olive oil. Sauté the onions for about 4 minutes until translucent. Add the zucchini, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté about 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the hot vegetables to the lentils in the bowl. Add the parsley, bread crumbs, flaxseed, Worcestershire sauce and the herbs and spices. In a separate little bowl put the chickpea flour and add two tablespoons of water and mix into a loose paste, which works as a binder. Add this flour and water mixture to the bowl. Mix everything well with your hands. If the mixture seems too loose, add more bread crumbs, while if it feels too dry and tight, add water. Form the lentil mixture into patties. Let them rest for a while in the refrigerator so they will hold their shape better.

Heat the large skillet again with some olive oil. Put the lentil patties into the skillet and fry on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Turn them carefully with tongs or a thin spatula so that they brown on both sides. Cook them long enough to be sure they get cooked all the way through. Remove from the pan and serve in wholemeal buns with a fresh green salad, tomatoes and Middle Eastern beetroot pickle.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Wednesday 8 May 2013


“Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.” - Adam Smith

The ancient Romans believed that on May 9th, 11th and 13th the gates between Earth and Hell opened allowing the Lemures (restless spirits) to come into this world. The term larvae was sometimes used synonymously with term Lemures. The male head of each household had to get up at midnight on each of these nights of May and exorcise the Lemures with a special ritual. He washed his hands three times, strode through the house, spitting and tossing black beans behind him that the ghosts were tempted to gather up and consume. Black was the appropriate colour for offerings to chthonic deities. This was repeated nine times. He would wash his hands anew and strike a brass gong, calling out nine times: “Shades of my fathers, depart!”  Because of this and other reasons, May was considered an unlucky month to celebrate marriages in.

Lemures represented the wandering and vengeful spirits of those not afforded proper burial, funeral rites or affectionate cult by the living. Ovid considers the Lemures as vagrant, unsatiated and potentially vengeful ancestral gods or spirits of the underworld. To him, the rites of their cult suggest an incomprehensibly archaic, quasi-magical and probably very ancient rural tradition. Four centuries later, St. Augustine describes both the Lemures and the larvae as evil and restless manes that torment and terrify the living: Lares, on the other hand, are good manes.

Lemures were formless and liminal, associated with darkness and its dread. William Warde Fowler interprets the gift of beans as an offer of life, and points out that they were a ritual pollution for priests of Jupiter. The Lemures themselves were both fearsome and fearful: Any malevolent shades dissatisfied with the offering of the paterfamilias could be startled into flight by the loud banging of bronze pots.

The Lemures inspired Linnaeus’ Modern Latin backformation of “Lemur”. According to Linnaeus’ own explanation, the name was selected because of the nocturnal activity and slow movements of these slender monkeys. Lemurs are a clade of primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. Although lemurs often are confused with ancestral primates, the anthropoid primates (monkeys, apes, and humans) did not evolve from them; instead, lemurs merely share morphological and behavioural traits with basal primates.

Lemurs arrived in Madagascar around 62 to 65 million years ago by rafting on mats of vegetation at a time when ocean currents favoured oceanic dispersal to the island. Since that time, lemurs have evolved to cope with an extremely seasonal environment and their adaptations give them a level of diversity that rivals that of all other primate groups. Until shortly after humans arrived on the island around 2,000 years ago, there were lemurs as large as a male gorilla. Today, there are nearly 100 species of lemurs, and most of those species have been discovered or promoted to full species status since the 1990s; however, lemur taxonomic classification is controversial and depends on which species concept is used. Even the higher-level taxonomy is disputed.

Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical “lost land” variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept arising in the 19th century, is an attempt to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics. Philip Sclater wrote an article on “The Mammals of Madagascar” in The Quarterly Journal of Science. Using a classification he referred to as lemurs but which included related primate groups, and puzzled by the presence of their fossils in both Madagascar and India but not in Africa or the Middle East, Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India had once been part of a larger continent. He wrote:

“The anomalies of the Mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that ... a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans ... that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some have become amalgamated with ... Africa, some ... with what is now Asia; and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands we have existing relics of this great continent, for which ... I should propose the name Lemuria!”

Although sunken continents do exist – like Zealandia in the Pacific as well as Mauritia and the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean, there is no known geological formation under the Indian or Pacific Oceans that corresponds to the hypothetical Lemuria. Though Lemuria is no longer considered a valid scientific hypothesis, it has been adopted by writers involved in the occult, as well as some Tamil writers of India. Accounts of Lemuria differ, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean as a result of a geological, often cataclysmic, change, such as pole shift.


“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” - Mahatma Gandhi
World Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal Day is an annual celebration of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. World Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal Day is celebrated on the 8th of May each year. This date is the anniversary of the birth of Henry Dunant (born 8 May 1828), the founder of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1922, soon after World War I, throughout the world there was a great yearning for peace. In Czechoslovakia, the National Society proclaimed a three-day truce at Easter to promote peace. An eminent government leader of the time summed up the underlying aspirations of that initiative as follows: “Our Red Cross wants to prevent disease so that it will not be obliged to give care; it also wants to encourage our society to prevent wars rather than having to bear the serious consequences involved. We all know the importance of the moral potential it brings into being and extends to all sections of the community. If its annual action could take hold in the whole world, this would certainly be a major contribution to peace.”
This was a presage of what was to become World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. The Czechoslovak initiative, known as the “Red Cross Truce”, had a big impact on the public, but met with some scepticism among National Society leaders. As a result the 14th International Conference of the Red Cross set up an International Commission to study the Red Cross Truce. Its report, presented to the 15th International Conference in Tokyo in 1934, stated that it approved the principle of the Truce and considered it advisable that its application be made more general, from the point of view of methodology, taking into account the various cultural and social characteristics of different regions of the world.
It was only after World War II, in 1946, that the Tokyo proposal was put into effect. During the XIVth Session of the Board of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies, later called the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies, the League was requested to study the possibility of adopting an international Red Cross Day, to be celebrated on the same date by all National Societies. Two years later, following approval by the Federation’s Executive Committee, Red Cross Day was celebrated for the first time throughout the world on 8 May 1948, the anniversary of the birth of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. It subsequently changed names several times and in 1984 became “World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day”.
Despite the red cross and red crescent being intended only as neutral humanitarian emblems, on occasion, over decades, they were wrongly perceived as having religious, cultural and political connotations. Sadly this diminished the protection they offered to vulnerable people in conflict zones. The solution, endorsed by governments and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, was the creation of a third emblem, known as the red crystal. In December 2005, at a Diplomatic Conference, the nations party to the Geneva Conventions adopted a Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, establishing the red crystal as an emblem of protection equal in status to the cross and crescent. This resolution of the issue offers enhanced protection in regions where neither the red cross nor the red crescent emblem is accepted - and allows all nations to choose the emblem with which they are comfortable.
The Australian Red Cross harnesses the power of humanity, providing relief in times of crisis, care when it’s needed most and commitment when others turn away. Red Cross is there for people in need, no matter who these people are, no matter where they live. Tens of millions of people around the world each year and care for local communities in Australia and Asia Pacific are cared for by the Australian Red Cross. Much of the valuable work of the Red Cross is carried out by millions of volunteers worldwide and thousands of members, volunteers and supporters across Australia we can reach people and places like nobody else.

Tuesday 7 May 2013


“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” - George Bernard Shaw
Magpie Tales has presented us with a painting by Mary Cassatt (1844 - 1926), the American impressionist painter, to stimulate our literary creativity. The painting is “Young Woman Picking the Fruit of Knowledge” of 1892. Here is my poem that was inspired by this painting.
Eve reaches out to pluck the fruit;
Forbidden – yet so tempting.
She hesitates and thinks
Of Lilith’s fate:
Wild-spirited and wilful,
Free, yet doomed to be alone…
The blush of ripeness
The fragrance of maturity;
Low-hanging, inviting,
Ready to be plucked.
Lilith would not have hesitated,
But look at her fate, damned…
Eve touches the swollen ovary
And feels a burst of power.
Even its touch is forceful,
How can one not taste its flesh?
Lilith surely bit into the fruit
And tasted its juice…
She picks it and her head explodes
With inrushing knowledge.
Her breast swells as her heart beats fast,
And she is struck dumb by the guilt.
Lilith would have not minded
The realisation of her nakedness…
Eve bites the fruit, and the sap
Tastes sweet, but has a bitter aftertaste.
Knowledge is useless
Without the company of wisdom.
Unlike Lilith, Eve harvests foolishness
But her wiles will trap Adam,
Who willingly must share her iniquity.
Eve, more cunning, more guilty,
Than the emancipated, wiser, more genuine Lilith.
(Lilith is a female demon of Jewish folklore; her name and personality are derived from the class of Mesopotamian demons called lilû (feminine: lilītu). In rabbinic literature Lilith is variously depicted as the first wife and mother of Adam’s demonic offspring, who left him because of their incompatibility. Three angels tried in vain to force her return; the evil she threatened, especially against children, was said to be counteracted by the wearing of an amulet bearing the names of the angels. A cult associated with Lilith survived among some Jews as late as the 7th century AD).

Monday 6 May 2013


“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.” - Carl Jung
We watched a rather delightful French, fantasy/adventure film at the weekend, which is based on a French comic book heroine. It was the 2010 Luc Besson movie, “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec”, starring Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric and Gilles Lellouche. The screenplay was by Luc Besson and was based on the Jacques Tardi comic book series. The film was reminiscent of the Tin-Tin film or even the Indiana Jones series. Bresson uses live actors aided by suitable CGI, when required, to create a rollicking adventure full of humour and action. As one would expect in a fantasy film, the plot is quite unbelievable and over the top, however, if one has enjoyed films of the likes of Harry Potter, the why not dive into this film and savour its acidic sweetness reminiscent of a soft, sugary, little French dragée?
The plot centres on Mlle Adèle Blanc-Sec, a popular novelist and daring adventuress, who is fearless in her pursuit of knowledge, thrills and setting right wrongs in the name of good causes. Her latest mission is prompted by her desperation to cure her comatose sister. Adèle braves ancient Egyptian tombs and modern Egyptian lowlife to locate a renowned mummified doctor who has the ability to cure all manner of ills, and get him back to Paris. Her hope is that the magician-like Professor Espérandieu will then use his unusual powers to bring the doctor back to life so he, in turn, can use his centuries-old skills to cure Adèle’s unfortunate sister. Back in Paris, however, Professor Espérandieu is causing mayhem, having brought to life what was a safe fossilised museum egg, but is now a very active and predatory pterodactyl (thanks to CGI!).
When watching the film, one is struck by some great positive features that make it very enjoyable: Great, rollicking pace, wonderful editing, fantastic sets and costumes, sympathetic music, and a marvellous leading actress. This is in fact Louise Bourgoin’s film from beginning to end and she carries the movie with no apparent effort, slipping into the essence of the character of Mlle Adèle Blanc-Sec.
The rapid pace and exemplary editing is reminiscent of the shift from from panel to panel in a comic book. However, readers of the Tardi comics may be a trifle disappointed as Adéle in the movie has been “scrubbed clean” and has lost some of her sarcasm, her grungy charm and her characteristic bohemian lifestyle. In fact, the whole of Paris has been cleaned up, as the comics are darker and more menacing, full of lowlifes, incompetent policemen, rabid lunatics and sorry invalids of the war roaming the dirty streets. Nevertheless, the film works well and one must allow the poetic licence of the director deliver his own vision of Adèle.
Luc Besson has made some very memorable and enduring contemporary films such as action thrillers like “Nikita” and “Leon the Professional”, and wonderful science fiction cult films such as “The Fifth Element”. If you enjoyed the last mentioned film, you will no doubt love “Adèle”. Besson must have had great fun making this movie and his direction is snappy and delightful. The actors seem to be having great fun also and in addition to Ms Bourgoin’s great efforts, all supporting actors do a marvellous job to propel the action forward.
Unfortunately this film didn’t do too well in France and with a budget of 25 million euros, the worldwide box-office sum of $34 million on 6 May 2011, indicates that the film did not live up to the profit-making expectations of the producers. Although there is a hint of a sequel in the closing scenes, I don’t foresee one coming up in the near future… Watch this one and enjoy it.


“I’m a girl from a good family who was very well brought up. One day I turned my back on it all and became a bohemian.” - Brigitte Bardot

Édouard Manet was born into a wealthy family on the 23 January 1832, in Paris, France. His father was a civil servant who wanted Manet to enter into the French navy. However, after Édouard visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, twice on training missions and failing the course, his father accepted that the navy was not the right career for his son. Consequently Manet entered into the atelier of Thomas Couture alongside his good friend Antonio Proust.

Manet worked in Couture’s studio until 1856 at which time he opened his own. Manet then went on to reject the teachings of Couture and worked in his own personal style. Manet did not like to layer his paints and preferred to work from subject matter that was directly in front of him and it was this painting style that went onto influence the Impressionists’ work.

By 1860 Manet was living with his mistress, Suzanne Leenhoff (his family’s piano teacher), who had previously had a relationship with Manet’s father. Manet’s private life was controversial. He finally married Suzanne who had her own child. It is unknown whether Manet was the father or brother of the child; however, he treated the boy as his own.

In the early 1860s Manet submitted a number of paintings, such as “Olympia” and “The Luncheon on the Grass” to the Salon jury. These were unfortunately rejected and the artist was left despondent, due to his belief that an artist had to have their work accepted into the Salon in order to be deemed successful.

In 1868 Manet was introduced to the artist Berthe Morisot and the two quickly became firm friends. Through Morisot, Manet was introduced to the other Impressionists, who he was soon considered to be a leader of although he never joined their art shows.

With the Prussian war approaching Manet joined the army and evacuated his family from the city. During this period his art production came to a standstill. Manet became ill in 1879 and eventually passed away in 1883.

Édouard Manet was an artist who bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism. During his time Manet considered himself to be a Realist artist and he classed his work as sincere. However, his radical painting style and modern subject matter highly influenced the work of the Impressionists, which has led to him being perceived as the father of Impressionism.

The vast majority of Manet’s paintings depict scenes from daily life, observed on the streets of Paris. His café scenes serve as fascinating windows into the actuality of Parisian social life at the end of the nineteenth century, showing common people waiting, reading, listening to music, drinking, or talking amongst themselves. His paintings were often based on hastily executed sketches of scenes he stumbled upon on the street. The immediacy of Manet’s “alla prima” style was quickly embraced by the younger generation, who later became the Impressionists. The alla prima style meant that a painting did not have to take months to create and allowed artists to paint from difficult to reach viewpoints. This was advantageous for Manet because he preferred to paint from reality rather than his imagination or dozens of pre-worked sketches and study paintings.

In the 1920s many critics were considering Manet’s work to be “pure painting”, fitting in with the Realist ideology. However in 1954 the Swede art critic Nils Gosta Sandblad began to look at Manet’s work as highly modern and having been indicative of future art trends (beyond Impressionism). This idea has carried on until modern times and today Manet is considered by many to have been an artist genius.

The painting above,  “Chez le père Lathuille”, of 1879, in Musée des Beaux-Arts Tournai, shows Manet’s mature style to advantage. The alla prima technique, allowing great immediacy takes us into this intimate scene of a lovers’ assignation in one of the cafés of Paris. The tender moment is observed from the distance by the waiter, who seems to be more interested in the artist rather than the young lovers. The painting is similar to a candid snapshot in this manner. The colours coruscate and the composition is masterly with the strong green vertical beam acting as the fulcrum for the strong horizontal of the white tablecloth. The figures are in perfect harmony, the artist having chosen to keep the formally dressed woman’s face rather obscure (does her stiff pose suggest that she is married? Is this an illicit meeting?), while the casual dress and pose of the man (an artist?) and his relaxed grasp of the full wine glass make one equate him with temptation personified. This is quite the illustration of La vie bohémienne!